Report of a National Cancer Institute special panel: Characterization of the physical parameters of particle beams for biological research

Med Phys. 2019 Feb;46(2):e37-e52. doi: 10.1002/mp.13324. Epub 2018 Dec 31.


Purpose: To define the physical parameters needed to characterize a particle beam in order to allow intercomparison of different experiments performed using different ions at the same facility and using the same ion at different facilities.

Methods: At the request of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a special panel was convened to review the current status of the field and to provide suggested metrics for reporting the physical parameters of particle beams to be used for biological research. A set of physical parameters and measurements that should be performed by facilities and understood and reported by researchers supported by NCI to perform pre-clinical radiobiology and medical physics of heavy ions were generated.

Results: Standard measures such as radiation delivery technique, beam modifiers used, nominal energy, field size, physical dose and dose rate should all be reported. However, more advanced physical measurements, including detailed characterization of beam quality by microdosimetric spectrum and fragmentation spectra, should also be established and reported. Details regarding how such data should be incorporated into Monte Carlo simulations and the proper reporting of simulation details are also discussed.

Conclusions: In order to allow for a clear relation of physical parameters to biological effects, facilities and researchers should establish and report detailed physical characteristics of the irradiation beams utilized including both standard and advanced measures. Biological researchers are encouraged to actively engage facility staff and physicists in the design and conduct of experiments. Modeling individual experimental setups will allow for the reporting of the uncertainties in the measurement or calculation of physical parameters which should be routinely reported.

Keywords: biological research; carbon; particle therapy; physical parameters; proton.

MeSH terms

  • Heavy Ion Radiotherapy*
  • Models, Biological
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • National Cancer Institute (U.S.)*
  • Physical Phenomena
  • Radiometry
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • United States